A two minute and forty-one second video titled Lights Out, which was originally made as a contest submission for an online horror movie contest, has now spiraled into what has become David F. Sandberg’s feature-length directorial debut. With Lights Out set to hit theaters this Friday via Warner Bros. Pictures, a sequel to Annabelle in the middle of principal photography, and even more projects on the way, Sandberg is without a doubt one of the next big directors in the world of Hollywood.
Sandberg recently took the time to chat with us earlier this week to discuss the creation process behind Lights Out, how his dreams turned into a reality, and what he has planned in the world of Hollywood next.
You can read our complete interview with Sandberg below.
Lights Out went from being a short YouTube video that was just under three minutes long to being a feature length film. How did this come about? Did the studio approach you first?
My wife Lotta and I made this two and a half minute short back home in Sweden for no money at all. It was supposed to be a contest submission for an online horror contest. We shot it one evening after Lotta got off work and we didn’t make the top six finalists in the competition, although I did win the best director award which was awesome. I figured that was pretty much it! But then, a few months later, people just started sharing it online and it started getting like millions of views. All of a sudden, all these people from Hollywood were starting to email and call to talk to me. It was just insane that a two and a half minute short can get that much attention.
For anybody who hasn’t seen the short, or anybody who hasn’t been lucky enough to check out the film yet, could you tell us a little bit about the premise?
It was just Lotta and me and we had to find out what was the scariest thing that we could do with just one actress and an apartment. We had this idea, I’m sure a lot of people have experienced this, when you turn off the lights at home at night and you think you see… You know, the shadows kind of look like a person and you have to turn the lights back on just to double check. What if there was actually someone there every time you turned off the lights? That seemed like a great concept to play with for two and a half minutes, and now almost ninety minutes.
Do you have any plans to turn some of your other short films into feature-length projects?
We would love to do that. Lights Out was actually a short that we didn’t have any sort of feature idea for. It was only supposed to be a short, but we have other shorts like Pictured for instance that we had this feature idea first and then we sort of made the short just as a little proof of concept. Pictured is the one where a picture keeps changing, so we have an idea for that one. Also, I think Cam Closer, which is another short about a phone that sees the future—I think that could be a cool movie too.
Diana is one of the scariest movie villains as of recent and she plays on everybody’s biggest fear in the dark. Is she inspired by any other horror villains?
Not really. It all sort of started with a very simple idea. We could have a silhouette standing in the dark, and that’s all we pretty much could do. It was what we used. I had Lotta be naked because I wanted you to be able to read the silhouette not have clothes. For the feature, I was lucky enough to have James Wan come on-board as a producer of this film, and he was actually asking me in the beginning, “Are you sure you want her to be naked in the movie? Is that going to be problematic for you?” I was like, “Well no. What would be scarier: to be chased by someone fully clothed or or someone absolutely naked?”
How difficult was it to light each shot perfectly and be able to combine the stories of Diana and the family?
It was insanely difficult to have a character in the movie that you can’t have light on, because I didn’t want to cheat and have a rim light or just have a little bit of light. I wanted to be if she’s in the light; she disappears. We had to really figure out every shot, so it took a lot of storyboarding and planning for those shots.
As you mentioned earlier, one of the biggest producers on the film, and maybe one of the biggest names in horror right now is James Wan. What role did he play in making the film a reality and what was it like to meet him? Did you get to pick his brain a little?
He was one of the first to come on-board the project even before New Line or Warner Bros. The first guy who contacted me was a producer named Lawrence Grey who knew James Wan. So, he started talking with James Wan and asked if this could be something for him. James had seen the short and thought that it was a really cool short, but he wasn’t really sure if there was enough there for a feature. So, I wrote a treatment of what I wanted the film to be and that sort of sold James on the idea that there was actually something here. Then he was very involved, like all the way through the script stage. He had a lot of ideas for sort of the backstory. Like, in my original treatment, she [Diana] was more of a demon and James had this idea that she if she was more of a ghost or someone that had been a person, she could have had known Sophie earlier in life and have a more emotional connection. The guy knows horror.
Is it easier having your wife Lotta by your side the entire time while making a movie?
We’re a team. We’ve made all of these shorts together and Lights Out started with just her and I, so we’re on this journey together and we want to do a lot more together.
What’s it like to make a film that is so well loved in a genre that is typically not well received by critics?
Very surprising, actually! Like you said, horror is not normally well received by critics. When we finished it was like, “Yeah! I think this could play with general audiences, but I don’t think it’s going to get good reviews.” So far so good!
You’re on the set of Annabelle 2 right now. Are there any new details about the upcoming horror sequel that you can share with us?
It’s still a period piece. It takes place in the past and it’s about an orphanage. It’s just a perfect setting and a perfect environment for a horror movie. There are certainly no cell phones to call for help or stuff like that.
Matt Damon is reteaming with his ‘Ford v Ferrari’ director James Mangold for ‘The Force’
Nearly 14 years after starring in Martin Scorsese‘s brilliant Infernal Affairs remake The Departed, Matt Damon is set to head back into crooked cop movie territory with his Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold.
According to Deadline, Damon is attached to play the lead role of Denny Malone in Mangold’s adaptation of Don Winslow’s 2017 best-selling novel The Force, which is a pretty damn good read if you haven’t gotten around to it yet.
In the book, Malone — a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant — is the dirtiest of dirty cops, having stolen millions of dollars worth of cash and narcotics in the wake of one of the biggest heroin busts in the history of New York City.
Little does Malone know, though, that the feds are hot on his tail “and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the job, his family and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all,” as the book’s official synopsis puts it.
David Mamet wrote and turned in the first draft of the script for The Force in 2017, but Mangold is currently in the middle of a rewrite with his Logan collaborator Scott Frank, so I suppose we’ll see how that turns out.
Production begins on Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’ starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett
Production is officially underway on Guillermo del Toro’s star-studded new project Nightmare Alley, which features one hell of an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett in the leading roles.
An adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same name, Nightmare Alley follows Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Cooper), a young and ambitious con man who teams up with a female psychiatrist (Blanchett) for a mentalist act, only to realize that she’s even more corrupt than he is.
Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, David Strathairn, Jim Beaver, and Mark Povinelli round out the film’s cast, with del Toro alumni such as Ron Perlman and Richard Jenkins also said to be in talks to join.
Leonardo DiCaprio was initially supposed to play Cooper’s role but was forced to bow out earlier this year as production on Nightmare Alley would’ve conflicted with that of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which stars DiCaprio alongside Robert De Niro and is expected to begin shooting in the spring.
No word yet on when Searchlight Pictures plans on releasing Nightmare Alley, but stay tuned for more info on that.
— J. Miles Dale (@milofx1) January 21, 2020
Phoenix: Warner Bros. invites you to an advance screening of Cathy Yan’s ‘Birds of Prey’
Warner Bros. will release Birds of Prey on February 7 and it’s giving Silver Screen Beat readers in Phoenix a chance to attend an advance screening of the film before it officially opens in theaters.
Our readers in Phoenix can click on this link right now to enter to free passes — good for you and one guest — to attend an advance screening of Birds of Prey happening at Harkins Arizona Mills IMAX on Wednesday, February 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Winners for this contest will be selected and notified on Monday, February 3 via email. Good luck! Below is the official trailer for Birds of Prey as well as some additional details about the film.
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, and Ewan McGregor
Opens: Friday, February 7
Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Synopsis: Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis, and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Black Canary, and Renee Montoya’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.